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Paul Oginsky: The transition to adulthood

Oginsky Paul Oginsky is Chief Executive of the Young Adult Trust and co-founder of Weston Spirit. David Cameron launched the YAT at the end of October.

"Adulthood is the acknowledgement that the world is like a children’s playground on a much larger scale” - Young person’s response to Young Adult Trust research project, October 2006.

YAT is an independent charity created by the British youth sector in response to a challenge set by David Cameron at a meeting of the sector in January 2006 to give every young person in Britain a sense of purpose, optimism and belonging. 

The initiative specialises in personal development for young people by offering a nationwide programme in which they can explore transition to adulthood. It provides a challenging and secure environment for young people to join in a common experience as they engage in the question of what they would be doing if they were recognised as adults by our society.

Unlike other cultures young people in Britain do not have a clear and common ‘rite of passage’ when they can establish themselves to have become adult.

We are very fortunate in this country however to have a youth sector that currently provides effective personal development courses for young people. Our motivation for the Young Adult Trust is to bring together this work in a truly collaborative way to offer a programme that provides a real social mix for young people and create a focussed debate on the transition to adulthood to increase awareness of its importance in our society. 

The Young Adult Trust is all about action. In the last nine months we have built a fully functioning organisation and are creating a range of practical and demanding activities to develop, confident, independent and community-minded young adults. Before a young person participates in a programme they have already been challenged to think about adulthood and have worked with one of our youth agency partners on their programme. 

The actual Young Adult Trust programme has structured personal development, community and team activities designed by different youth sector agencies around the questions: Who am I?, How do I relate to others?, and what am I capable of? The young person will spend 10 days, living with people from all communities looking at different aspects of decision making, opportunity, attitudes and behaviours in order to live a purposeful life and contribute to the full extent of their abilities. Our message is if you behave like an adult you will be acknowledged by an adult.

The Young Adult Trust programme is meant to be ‘tough’ and the young people who volunteer will be a living testament to the quality of referral organisations.   

The concept is being defined through pilot schemes running throughout next year. 25 young people worked through a prototype in October and are now helping to develop the pilots. This activity is critical to the work we are doing to make our case persuasive and credible. We are working hard to research different ways in which adult society recognises young people’s development from childhood to maturity. We are looking specifically at Adulthood and the Law examining the links between age and adulthood and outlining the ways in which age is used to confer adult status with our legal systems. In conjunction with this we are looking at other countries and cultures to find out how they support young people’s transition process. 

It is crucially important to understand the views and experiences of young people themselves at this critical point of their lives and help wider society recognise the role this transition plays in our communities. We are gathering young people’s opinions and you can read some of our preliminary findings in our recently published research booklet written by YAT’s Research and Policy Advisor, Adam Nichols, entitled “Purpose, Optimisim and Belonging – Supporting the Transition to Adulthood.”

As a new charity we have a lot to prove and we invite feedback and contribution from voluntary and non voluntary sector groups, companies and individuals. There are many opinions about transition to adulthood and we would like to hear yours. Get in touch by emailing [email protected] or call on 020 7702 1584. It is really ambitious to get everyone to contribute their best work into a collaborative programme and even more ambitious to offer it to every young person in the country but if we are successful the benefits are well worth the highs and lows of the journey. Will you join us?


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